The backdrop for this appeal is a complicated series of coverage cases that are being litigated in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Mine Safety Appliances Company (MSA) manufactures mine safety equipment, including dust respirators. The plaintiffs were West Virginia coal miners who alleged that they were exposed to coal dust and contracted lung disease because of defective MSA respirators. The plaintiffs reached settlements with MSA under which they received (1) a fixed sum of money, and (2) an assignment of MSA’s rights to recover additional sums from MSA’s insurer, North River. MSA and North River have been engaged in protracted litigation involving coverage under MSA’s policy.
The plaintiffs amended their pleadings to join North River and assert claims under their assignments. North River moved to dismiss the claims citing the law governing forum non conveniens, W.Va. Code 56-1-1a. Alternatively, North River asked to stay this case until the out-of-state coverage cases were fully litigated. The trial court denied both motions, and North River proceeded by way of writ of prohibition.